1. All babies are unique
From sleep totals and wake times, to what sleep associations pair well with their sensory preferences, each baby will have different needs when it comes to sleep. We cannot stress enough how important it is to take all the information out there on sleep as a baseline and then take the time to tune into your individual baby. When we embrace what it is that works best for them, we can meet them where they are at and support them exactly how they need.
2. What works well for one family might be different for another
If you haven’t already, it is time to ditch the generic approaches to sleep and age based guides. It’s time to drown out the noise of what Betty down the street did. We want you to stop trying to do exactly what worked for your sister and her baby. The family dynamic has more of an influence on sleep than we might imagine and ensuring that what we are doing works for our family and our personal lifestyle is essential.
3. Sleep is not linear
You’re not alone if it feels like one week you’ve got it all figured out and naps are flawless, bedtime is smooth as butter and wakes are minimal and manageable… only to have it feel like everything completely fell apart the week after. Sleep is not linear and we need to embrace that. Babies are changing, growing and developing SO much within the first couple years of their life that it is totally reasonable to expect that it would have an effect on their sleeping patterns. Our advice, embrace the good times, and stay as confident and calm as possible to support your baby through the harder times!
4. Temperament is a huge factor
Becoming familiar with your child’s temperament can be beyond helpful when it comes to sleep. Some babies will be able to fall asleep after being laid down drowsy but awake, but so many won’t! Some babies will be able to nap in the bright day light, some will need complete darkness. Some will need lots of physical touch to settle, others may just prefer your presence. Spending time getting to know your baby’s temperament will give you key indicators on what they will need from you in terms of support with sleep.
5. Quick fixes often stop working almost as quickly as they started
Quick fixes address a symptom, they don’t get to the root cause. We always advocate for a holistic approach to sleep because there are just SO many things that can impact sleep. We need to be sure we address everything that might be going on. If we are not addressing the root concern, things will only get better for a short while. If we sleep train because our toddler cannot settle at bedtime, we may have missed an iron deficiency that will still be there. If we sleep train to force sleep at nap time, we may be missing the fact that our child really needs longer wake windows and lower sleep totals than average and leaving to cry in isolation won’t help us to embrace their biological needs. It might take longer to get more sleep, but you will be helping your child to thrive along the way.
6. Your relationship with your child is the most important parenting tool you have
Connection, connection, connection. We look at sleep with an approach rooted in attachment, and for good reason. Sleep is not behavioural, it isn’t a skill that can be taught, and it is not something that we can force. Sleep is separation and separation is the hardest thing for our children to face. Knowing that, we MUST approach it with connection as the focus. Intentional connection is what makes separation easier, not more separation. When children feel like they are invited in our presence, when they know they can depend on us unconditionally, they naturally want to follow our lead. Ensuring your relationship is strong and that you are taking the lead in the attachment relationship is a huge aspect of infant and toddler sleep.
7. You never have to separate from your child to get more sleep
You can make changes while staying close and connected. You can night wean while continuing the bedshare. You can move away from bouncing or rocking to sleep without removing yourself entirely. You can make whatever changes you need to make in order for your family to thrive without EVER having to hold back on being responsive and present. When we make changes we need to be able to support any emotion that may come wit the change. Being present and close to support that emotion and provide support to the changes we are making to get more sleep will make the process easier for everyone and will keep connection intact.
8. It’s okay if what was working before stops working and you need to make a change
It absolutely breaks our hearts when families feel like they must immediately stop nursing to sleep now, because of the issues they think it could possibly cause in the future. Keep what you love change what is no longer working for you. As we previously mentioned, sleep is not linear, and the changes that will happen are not predictable. If something is working for you and enjoy it, CHERISH IT. If or when it does stop serving you family, make the change then. Just because something does stop working, does not mean you did anything wrong on your journey until that point. It just means you trust your instincts to make a shift.
9. Laughter will reset everything
Feeling frustrated from the nap time struggle? About to lose your cool after an hour of bedtime battles? Feeling defeated and downright exhausted after a teething baby kept you up for hours at a time? Stop. Breathe. Get them laughing. Get yourself laughing! Laughter helps our bodies to process stress and it also causes the bonding hormone oxytocin to be released. We know our babies co-regulate so if we are feeling negatively about sleep, they are too. But, if we can stop, reset and focus on making them smile, it helps them to feel more connected, again allowing them to follow our lead. Another amazing side effect, it puts back a little bit of joy back into our day. It helps us feel more connected to our children and ready to support them through the tricky time.
10. You’re doing amazing and your baby is lucky to have you
Go back, read that sentence again. We hope you believe this deeply and entirely. We know, it feels so hard, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t an absolutely incredible mother. We want you to feel confident and empowered, because when you do, it makes everything so much easier. You are the absolute best mother there is for your baby. You are their mother for a reason. You know them best, and you are without a doubt the best person to be there, holding them close, loving on them, and guiding them.